AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 22, Issue 22, October 25, 2021
- International Workshop Series: How Does Sharing Genetic Sequence Data Impact Biodiversity Science and Conservation?
- Senate Releases Remaining FY 2022 Spending Bills
- OSTP Invites Public Input to Advance Equity in Science
- Biden Administration Unveils Plans to Regulate PFAS
- White House Announces USFWS Nominee
- AIBS Endorses Letter Calling for NSF Support in Infrastructure Legislation
- Stakeholders Urge Lawmakers to Support Agricultural Climate Research Investments
- Register Now: AIBS Employment Acquisition Skills Boot Camp for Scientists
- Short Takes
- White House Unveils Revamped Climate Science Website
- Lawmakers Launch Bipartisan National Marine Sanctuary Caucus
- NASEM Virtual Meeting: Data Science Education for the Biomanufacturing Workforce
- From the Federal Register
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International Workshop Series: How Does Sharing Genetic Sequence Data Impact Biodiversity Science and Conservation?
With support from the National Science Foundation, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the USA Nagoya Protocol Action Group are organizing an online workshop series to explore how the international scientific community can study biodiversity in the changing landscape of international policy. Registration is currently open for the sessions on October 29 and November 15.
The Role of International Collaborations in Resolving Viral Diseases of Cassava in Africa
Date: October 29, 2021
Time: 9:00 - 11:00 AM EST or 1:00 - 3:00 PM UTC (this program will be recorded)
Location: Online via Zoom
Hosted by: American Society of Plant Biologists and Global Plant Council
Despite decades of work around the world to address cassava viral diseases, which are among the most devastating crop diseases in Africa, we are only just beginning to understand the complexity of the system. Continued international collaboration – and particularly robust inclusion of researchers on the continent, as well as sharing of data among labs around the world – will be critical to advance the research toward disease mitigation or prevention.
Learn more and register.
More than Potatoes: Collaboration for Collecting and Building the Tree of Life
Date: November 15, 2021
Time: 9:00 - 11:00 AM EST or 2:00 - 4:00 PM UTC (This program will be recorded)
Location: Online via Zoom
Hosted by: American Society of Plant Taxonomists & Botanical Society of America
Leandro and Sandy have collaborated for over a decade to understand the evolution and diversity of the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Join them in a conversation about what it takes to make collections and phylogenetic studies have the greatest societal impacts.
Learn more and register.
Senate Releases Remaining FY 2022 Spending Bills
Science agencies are slated for significant funding increases in the nine fiscal year (FY) 2022 spending bills released by Senate Democrats last week. The bills were released after months of negotiations between Democratic and Republican appropriators failed to culminate in a deal on overall discretionary spending levels.
Science highlights from the bills include:
- The National Science Foundation would receive a $1 billion or 12 percent increase to $9.5 billion in FY 2022. The level proposed in the Senate is $148 million below the amount proposed in the House and $700 million below the President’s request of $10.2 billion. The research account at NSF would receive $7.7 billion, $29 million below the House proposed level. Like the House bill, the Senate bill would approve NSF’s proposal to create a new technology directorate.
- The National Institute of Health would receive $48 billion, an increase of 12 percent over FY 2021 and $1.5 billion less than the level approved by the House. Of the $5 billion funding increase, $2.4 billion would go towards the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). The House has approved a $3 billion budget for the proposed agency.
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology would receive a 35 percent boost to $1.39 billion in the Senate bill, slightly higher compared to the 32 percent increase proposed in the House bill.
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would receive a 7 percent increase to $24.8 billion in FY 2022, with its science programs slated for an increase of $600 million to $7.9 billion.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) budget would grow by 15 percent to $6.3 billion, which is $182 million below the level proposed in the House and $690 million below the agency’s budget request.
- The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would receive $1.5 billion (+14 percent), with $326 million (+26 percent) directed to its Ecosystems Mission Area. The House has approved $1.64 billion (+25 percent) for the agency and $355 million (+37 percent) for the ecosystems account.
- The National Park Service would be funded at $3.5 billion (+11 percent); the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would receive a boost of 17 percent to $1.8 billion; and the Bureau of Land Management is slated for an increase of 18 percent to $1.5 billion in the Senate bill.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is slated to receive $10.5 billion; a 14 percent increase relative to FY 2021. The House has approved 23 percent boost for the regulatory agency. EPA’s science and technology programs would get a 10 percent boost to $803 million.
- The Smithsonian Institution would receive $1.1 billion (+7 percent), equal to levels proposed in the House and by the President.
- Basic research funding at the Department of Defense would increase by 15 percent to $3 billion.
Republican senators have expressed opposition to these spending bills, demanding that Democrats agree to significant changes. Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said that Chairman Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) “decision to unilaterally unveil partisan spending bills is a significant step in the wrong direction…Their bills are filled with poison pills and problematic authorizing provisions…If Democrats want full year appropriations bills, they must abandon their go-it-alone strategy and come to the table to negotiate.”
Government agencies are currently operating under a continuing resolution until December 3, 2021. The Senate Appropriations Committee previously advanced three appropriation bills, namely the bills for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Energy and Water Development; and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies. The House has already passed 10 out of the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2022. Lawmakers in the House and Senate are now looking to negotiate and pass an omnibus spending package before the current stopgap funding expires at end of the year.
OSTP Invites Public Input to Advance Equity in Science
On October 14, 2021, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) launched a new initiative, The Time is Now: Advancing Equity in Science and Technology Ideation Challenge, to gather input from the public about how to advance equity in science and technology.
OSTP Director Dr. Eric Lander is inviting Americans, including students, skilled technical workers, scientists, industry innovators, equity advocates, education leaders, and the general public, to share their insights on the question: “How can we guarantee all Americans can fully participate in, and contribute to, science and technology?” This ideation challenge is the second phase of OSTP’s Time is Now initiative and builds on a five-part roundtable series of conversations with researchers, thought leaders, and advocates on themes related to science and technology equity.
“America’s future depends on science and technology like never before, and to address the extraordinary opportunities and challenges we face — to our health, our planet, our economic prosperity, and our national security — the United States will need to draw on all of its assets, chief among them our unrivaled diversity,” said Dr. Lander. “We need everybody to be able to participate in and contribute to science and technology because different experiences and perspectives are the bedrock of new scientific and technological insights, because having everybody on the team is essential to America’s global competitiveness in the 21st century, and, because it’s the right thing to do.”
Input for this initiative can be submitted here until November 19, 2021. Feedback from the public will be part of a larger effort to gather ideas “that can galvanize action and spur new efforts that benefit the entire Nation.”
Biden Administration Unveils Plans to Regulate PFAS
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a broad strategy to regulate a group of toxic chemicals that are used in Teflon and firefighting foam and have been associated with serious health conditions, such as thyroid defects, liver damage, pregnancy and developmental problems, and some cancers.
On October 18, 2021, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, announced the agency’s strategic roadmap to limit pollution from long-lasting chemicals, called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, that have contaminated public drinking water systems, private wells as well as food. The roadmap—developed by the EPA Council on PFAS, which was established in April 2021—lays out a whole-of-agency approach to addressing PFAS, outlining new regulatory policies and setting timelines by which EPA plans to take specific actions.
“This comprehensive, national PFAS strategy will deliver protections to people who are hurting, by advancing bold and concrete actions that address the full life cycle of these chemicals,” said Regan. “Let there be no doubt that EPA is listening, we have your back, and we are laser focused on protecting people from pollution and holding polluters accountable.”
EPA’s approach will focus on three goals: investing in research to increasing understanding of the toxicity and ecological and health impacts of PFAS; pursuing a comprehensive approach to restrict PFAS entry into air, land, and water; and accelerating the cleanup of PFAS contamination. The roadmap lists several key actions that the agency will undertake in its effort to regulate PFAS, including publishing a national PFAS testing strategy, ensure a robust review process for new PFAS chemicals to ensure they are safe before they enter commerce, and requiring PFAS manufacturers to conduct and fund toxicity studies. EPA will also begin a national effort to engage stakeholders in this process through webinars, stakeholder listening sessions, and direct engagement with affected communities.
White House Announces USFWS Nominee
President Biden has announced his intention to nominate Martha Williams to serve as the next Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), a position that has been vacant since January 2021.
Williams has already been leading the agency since January as Principal Deputy Director. Prior to that Williams served as Director of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks from 2017 to 2020. Williams previously served as an Assistant Professor of Law at the Blewett School of Law at the University of Montana and co-directed the university’s Land Use and Natural Resources Clinic. She also served as Deputy Solicitor Parks and Wildlife at the Department of the Interior for two years, providing counsel to the National Park Service and USFWS. Williams earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Montana School of Law.
AIBS Endorses Letter Calling for NSF Support in Infrastructure Legislation
A broad coalition of 111 stakeholder organizations from U.S. academia, scientific societies, and industry, including AIBS, have sent a letter to congressional leadership in support of robust funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the infrastructure packages currently being negotiated in the House and Senate.
“NSF is a critical part of our nation’s innovation infrastructure,” the groups note. “Large bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress have recognized the urgent need to invest in our science, engineering, and technology ecosystem to ensure our competitiveness and enable the innovation for a better future. Now, Congress must provide the actual funding for this effort to ensure our science and engineering ecosystem can respond to the challenges ahead.”
Read the letter.
Stakeholders Urge Lawmakers to Support Agricultural Climate Research Investments
A coalition of 132 agricultural research stakeholder groups, including AIBS, has called on House and Senate leadership to prioritize and protect the vital investments in agricultural climate research, agricultural research infrastructure, and agricultural innovation included in the ‘Build Back Better’ infrastructure package.
The letter emphasizes that the “$7.75 billion in agricultural research investment, or just 0.2[percent] of the proposed original total reconciliation package, underlies the tools necessary to build climate resilience and food security for all Americans.”
“These proposed investments are a generational down payment to fill critical R&D gaps and climate-proof our food system — realizing agriculture’s beneficial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting carbon sequestration,” the groups note. “They provide funding for [U.S. Department of Agriculture] research, the land grant colleges and universities, as well as tribal colleges and universities, historically Black colleges and universities, and Extension programs throughout the nation. Without these investments, we will face food supply shortages as well as an inability to mitigate climate change by storing carbon in our soils and forests.”
Read the letter.
Register Now: AIBS Employment Acquisition Skills Boot Camp for Scientists
Registration is now open for the Employment Acquisition Skills Boot Camp for Scientists, an online professional development program from the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate programs in the United States do an excellent job of preparing students for careers in academia. As early career professionals and a growing number of reports note, however, many recent STEM graduates (including those with advanced degrees) are interested in employment in sectors beyond the professoriate by the time they complete their degree.
Scientists continue to report that they feel ill-prepared and ill-equipped to pursue employment in these settings.
To help scientists identify and successfully transition into the careers they desire, the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) developed a program to help scientists hone and practice the skills needed to secure employment. AIBS’s Employment Acquisition Skills Boot Camp for Scientists is an intensive multi-day program that blends asynchronous modules, live lecture, and hands-on exercises. Designed by scientists with years of work experience in diverse settings and a career coach, this program provides graduate students to senior scientists with the information, tools, and resources required to successfully identify and secure employment in a diversity of careers, including science policy, communications, researchers or program managers in the private sector, research funding organizations, non-profit management, international development, government agencies, and others.
Course participants will:
- Identify and clarify career interests and opportunities by reviewing currently available jobs;
- Learn to communicate their knowledge and skills to employers by providing tools and activities;
- Develop strategies for finding employment;
- Develop application materials with feedback from instructors;
- Prepare for and practice different interview styles and scenarios.
Current graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, and scientists interested in transitioning to a new employment sector should consider signing up.
This course will be offered online in three live sessions, each three hours long, conducted on February 11, February 18, and February 25, 2022 from 1:00 - 4:00 PM Eastern Time. In addition, participants will be asked to review short pre-recorded modules asynchronously.
For more information, including a general program agenda, and to register, please visit our website.
- The Biden Administration has restored and overhauled the climate change website climate.gov to provide public and local governments with “timely and authoritative scientific data and information about climate science, adaptation, and mitigation.” The goals are to improve public understanding of climate science, to make data products and services from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) easy to access and use, to provide climate-related support to the private sector, to provide climate science teaching resources for formal and informal educators, and to provide tools and resources to enable climate-related decision-making.
- Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA), who heads the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, and Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) have joined forces to create a bipartisan National Marine Sanctuary Caucus to promote the preservation of marine and freshwater habitats. The caucus co-chairs indicated that they have secured 32 other House members, including 27 Democrats and five Republicans, to join the effort. According to the co-chairs, the caucus will lead efforts “to raise congressional awareness and understanding of national marine sanctuaries and their role in sustaining healthy oceans.”
- Data science, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning are expected to play a critical role in many areas of biomanufacturing. Join the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) for a virtual meeting of experts on Friday, November 5, 2021 from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM ET to discuss unique challenges for developing and training the future biomanufacturing workforce. Speakers from industry, government, and academia will focus on potential changes to education and training approaches needed to strengthen and diversify the future workforce.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a non-profit 501(c)3 public charity organization that advances the biological sciences for the benefit of science and society. AIBS works with like-minded organizations, funding agencies, and political entities to promote the use of science to inform decision-making. The organization does this by providing peer-reviewed or vetted information about the biology field and profession and by catalyzing action through building the capacity and the leadership of the community to address matters of common concern.
Founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences, AIBS became an independent, member-governed organization in the 1950s. Today, AIBS has over 100 member organizations and has a Public Policy Office in Washington, DC. Its staff members work to achieve its mission by publishing the peer-reviewed journal BioScience, by providing scientific peer-review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients, and by collaborating with scientific organizations to advance public policy, education, and the public understanding of science.